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Friday, February 26, 2016

Memo To The Mayor: Clean Up Your Own Backyard, Plus: The Las Cruces Recession, And: About That Meeting: Readers React To Chaos Over ABQ Bus Plan 

Indulge us for a Friday commentary. . .

Now it's getting downright absurd. An editorial in the newspaper says, "if you can't find a cop when you need one, try calling your state senator." This after Mayor Berry's double-dipping bill to increase the number of police officers died again in the state Senate.

This mayor has presided over the most chaotic, expensive and mismanaged police department in the history of the city. It is so bad that it will block his ambitions for higher office and stain his legacy forever. His continued insistence on shifting blame for the meltdown on his watch is probably the most unpleasant aspect of his political character.

Double-dipping (allowing public sector workers to return to government jobs and keep full pensions and their salary) was dropped long ago because of the threat it presented to the solvency of the pension funds. But it just wasn't double-dipping that killed Berry's bill this time. It was the Senate telling him to clean up his own backyard.

Contrary to the newspaper's contention (and that of former NM Public Safety Director Fouratt) ABQ is the only major police agency in the state suffering a significant manpower shortage. That other newspaper--the ABQ Free Press--did the solid journalism proving that.

But there's more. Opponents who beat Berry in Santa Fe did not want to see officers brought back who were part of the toxic culture that has desecrated the department. It has
resulted in tens of millions of lost taxpayer dollars from lawsuits over illegal police shootings; it has forced the Federal government to intervene in the department, costing taxpayers even more millions; it has caused corruption like the Taser lapel camera deal and most damaging, it has compromised our community's safety and well-being.

Crime has skyrocketed under Berry's administration (see the latest FBI stats) and has so damaged the city's reputation that out-of-state businesses won't even consider having their employees live and work here. Berry's economy, like his police department, is the worst in modern history.

No, ABQ doesn't need to call its state senators when crime occurs, but they do need to send a wake-up call to this drowsy, ambivalent and responsibility shirking chief executive. In other words, clean up your own poop, Mr. Mayor.

PAIN IN THE. . . 

There is one fella who has been unwavering in his commitment to giving ABQ a wake-up call. He's Silvio Dell'Angela and the subject of a profile in the ABQ Free Press. It's called City Hall's Pain In The Ass." His critics call him a crank but he remains relentless, adding names to his ample email list as he scorches the powers-that-be over APD and the other top issues of the day.

STILL GOING 

We blogged this week about national economists raising the prospect that New Mexico will officially fall into recession soon. That had us asking Dr. Chris Erickson, NMSU economist, for the latest on the Las Cruces recession he has reported on:

The recession that began in March 2014 continues here in Las Cruces unabated. Employment in December was down 1.7 percent year-over-year while unemployment stood at 7.5%. A bright spot was a gain of 100 jobs in the health & education sector. This is what makes it particularly frustrating that the state failed to fully fund Medicaid. Those three-to-one matching federal dollars are sorely needed.

A recession now two years old and that hardly anyone talks about? Another reason Dr. Erickson is a charter member of our "No Bullshit Economists" club, along with his NMSU colleague, Dr. Jim Peach. Keep telling it like it is, fellas.

ABOUT THAT MEETING

The public meeting over Mayor Berry's rapid bus transit plan (ART) that erupted into chaos Wednesday night drew wide reader reaction. Joanie Griffin, who provides public relations for Bradbury and Stamm, the contractor for the $119 million project on Central Avenue, came with this:

I was one of the people trying to speak as part of the ART team last night. It was complete chaos. I do appreciate that people are upset. But screaming at City employees and the contractors does nothing to facilitate the process. Our intent with this series of public meetings is to present what is currently planned and get feedback from people. It's not a do you want ART or don't you want ART conversation. It's what can we do to mitigate the construction impacts and make this a project that works for people.

Rather than yelling and screaming, come up with some constructive alternatives and solutions. Right now businesses on Central are dying without ART. So what would they do to improve the business climate if not ART. Making a scene isn't constructive for anyone.

Susan Bradway writes:

While progress is a good thing, infrastructure must be in place to support that progress. The ART is a good idea but the infrastructure is not there. An economy near recession combined with a construction endeavor that will drive most would be shoppers away is an instant recipe for economic disaster for merchants along Central Ave. Combine the construction chaos with Albuquerque's elevated violent crime rate and that should about drive everyone out. Maybe that is the REAL plan. On some levels this is like the Behavioral Health debacle. Drive the present businesses out and put favored new ones in. Disgusting at best.

Reader Jim Cooke writes:

Joe, as an auto-free resident of the SE Fringecrest neighborhood I wonder how far $25 million would go in providing improved bus and jitney service in all the grossly under served districts peripheral to Central. Pretty far, I'd bet. I can hop on the No. 16 bus going West and, in minutes, get to Central where one risks drowning in the river of No.66s, 666s and 777s. Fine. But try to make it to an appointment in the South Valley, North Valley, or anywhere north of Central and one needs to factor in hours to account for serpentine bus routes, long walks and time-in-stir spent at connecting bus stops, not to mention the challenge of distilling those connections from the Transportation Department's opaque schedules.

ART is a particularly unimaginative project. We need the jobs, granted. Why not make those jobs permanent by de-Centralizing the existing scheme?

Reader Dan writes:

. . . This is $120 million shot in the arm that creates construction jobs, will spur economic development, improves transportation and makes ABQ look less blight-y which is a real problem in attracting businesses and new residents. Plus it preserves a right-of-way for future mass transit upgrade (street car, light rail). The businesses on Central opposing this are insane in my opinion. Businesses are already leaving and closing and a shovel has yet to hit the ground. While we think Nob Hill is such a great walkable area it is only by our car-centric standards. The sidewalks are too narrow (BRT project would widen them) and cars travel too fast (BRT would reduce lanes in some area to one car lane which would slow traffic and make it easier to cross the street). My preference would be a streetcar or light rail but that option is not on the table. It’s pure fantasy given our dire economic realities. If a vocal minority (who skew older) kill this project, ABQ is in worse shape than I feared.

There was another boisterous public meeting on ART Thursday night with most people in attendance adamantly opposed but feeling helpless that the project will be rammed through no matter their views. And where was Mayor Berry? Nowhere in sight to explain the massive $119 million project.

THE BOTTOM LINES

Former ABQ Mayor Jim Baca is vacationing near the warm waters of Puerta Vallarta, Mexico and he writes:

Sitting in Mexico on a beach and watching the news come out of New Mexico and the United States one would think that they are looking at news from a Third World developing country in the midst of political crisis. It is almost laughable.

A "political crisis?" in New Mexico? We wouldn't know what it's like to live without one. Now back to your adult beverage, Jim.

That's it for this week. Thanks for stopping by.

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